With controversy tagging his memoir, A Call to Honour, former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh on Tuesday tried to explain why he remained silent for long about the mole in PV Narasimha Rao's PMO. He said the spy — no longer in India nor in service — did not “give away much” to the US. Singh too did not reveal much at his first press conference after the book's release.
But a TV channel reported that Singh had named the mole at a meeting with BJP leaders late at night. The mole is reportedly a scientist who served five prime ministers. (The name has been speculated about but since HT cannot confirm it independently, the name is being withheld.) The BJP spokesperson denied that Singh had revealed the mole’s identity.
Another controversy surfaced when Ram Jethmalani, Singh’s colleague in the NDA cabinet, sent him a letter, asking him to apologise to the nation as he had committed “a criminal offence” by not informing the police what he knew about the spy.
Singh said if he had revealed the mole’s identity while the NDA was in power, it would have been labelled a witch-hunt. He said, “With the NDA government carrying out the needed nuclear tests..., the disclosure would have appeared to be politics of vendetta.”
He said he got the letter in 1996 but at that time the government was trying to keep its plans for Pokhran II under wraps.
The hints Singh dropped about the mole: he “was in the PMO in a high position” and is “not in service and not in India now”. Singh said the spy did not “give away much to the US by way of nuclear secrets, except some details about the country’s intentions and programmes”.
Asked why he did not inform intelligence agencies about the document, the BJP leader said, "The contents of the letter did not warrant any such investigation, certainly not by the Delhi Police." But Jethmalani would disagree.
In his letter, Jethmalani said, “It was your plain duty to denounce the mole to the police authorities. This was your duty as a normal citizen u/s 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. While you were writing your book, you were committing a criminal offence from day-to-day u/s 176 of the Penal Code.”
Jethmalani said, "You’ve sworn to uphold the law. Law can’t be upheld if those who know of its infraction conceal it in their bosom and open up only when they publish a book."
Singh said he referred to the mole to point out that the US was fully in the know of India's nuclear plans prior to Pokhran II, where it was caught unawares.
Parrying a question on whether he had kept former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee informed about the mole, Singh said he shared the information with whosoever mattered at that time.
He said he would share with the PM all the information he had. Sources in the PMO said it had received a request for a meeting but no date has been fixed.